Last weekend, I attended a baby shower for a pair of dear friends from college. They’re about to become first-time parents, and I’m overjoyed on their behalf for the amazing journey that awaits them in the coming months. They’re in for a world of new experiences: Parenthood is a magnificent and unpredictable adventure.
It’s also exhausting. Caring for a newborn requires more energy than parents think they’re capable of generating. Sometimes parenting seems like an endurance test, one that challenges boundaries every day. If you have friends who are expecting a new arrival, it helps to realize their lives are about to change in dramatic ways. When you’re looking for useful gifts for new parents, consider showing them your boundless support by selecting nursery items that will make their lives easier and offer them a brief respite from the chaos.
By the time the baby shower rolls around, most new parents will probably have their overall nursery design already planned. If you haven’t been given a tour of the completed space, it’s a good idea to ask in advance about any colors or themes you should keep in mind before selecting a gift. Your gift of a changing table in vibrant safety orange might not be a good fit for their sweetly tasteful pink and grey nursery.
In fact, skip the changing table entirely. Unless they’ve specifically reached out to you for help, new parents will most likely want to handle the selection of the essential pieces of nursery furniture—the crib, the changing table, the dresser, the comfortable chair for mom or dad to sit in while holding the baby—all by themselves. Instead, look for practical, attractive gifts that will help transform a nursery into a safe and comfortable first home for the new arrival. If a baby shower looms in your future and you’re searching for nursery gift ideas, here are a few of my favorites:
Present the new parents with an array of items that ease the onerous yet necessary task of diaper changing. This is one of my go-to gift ideas because it’s so easy to customize, and it can be effortlessly scaled up or down to fit your budget. Find an attractive yet functional basket and fill it with everything a new mom or dad should keep on hand near the changing table: diapers, baby wipes, diaper cream, hand sanitizer, burp cloths, small toys, and a stack of soft washcloths. If you’re a parent yourself, think back to the products you relied on the most and share your favorites.
Give them a blanket that parents and baby will adore. There’s no shortage of baby blankets out there, but I’m crazy about these plush Sherpa blankets: One side is covered with a super-soft textured fleece, while the other side features an exclusive design by an independent artist. Choose from all kinds of whimsical and unique options—I gave this colorful elephant to my friends at last weekend’s baby shower. The softness of the sherpa blankets makes them ideal for newborns, while the size—a generous 60” x 50”—means they’ll be well-used and well-loved into the toddler years and beyond. When the baby outgrows their crib, the blanket makes a perfect bedspread for a child-sized bed. Sherpa blankets are machine-washable, too, which is an absolute necessity for anything meant to be used by an infant.
Caring for a newborn is a full-time job, and few parents have the time or energy for household chores on top of that. Any gift that makes the task of tidying up the nursery easier will be greatly appreciated by new parents. A set of cute, lightweight boxes, baskets, or fabric storage bins would be a welcome gift—they’re an ideal size for stashing toys, blankets, stuffed animals, booties, and onesies to keep the nursery neat with a minimum of fuss.
Stark overhead lighting is no good for babies—or for exhausted parents who’ve been awakened out of their sleep for an unscheduled midnight feeding. Desk lamps cast a gentle and comforting glow. For an unexpected yet practical gift, choose one that will delight a growing baby with a shade printed with a unique and whimsical design, like this one emblazoned with an adorable picture of a sweet-faced donkey.
For added appeal, include a nursery bulb—a low-wattage LED light bulb that fits in any standard lamp to give your nursery an especially soft, soothing, baby-friendly glow. Or, for tech-savvy new parents, consider adding an Alexa-enabled smart light bulb that can be turned on or off or dimmed via voice control, making it ideal for parents whose hands are fully occupied with a sleeping baby.
Baby monitors have come a long way since you and I were infants: Today’s monitors harness cutting-edge technology to help new parents keep a protective eye on their little ones. For parents who are comfortable with tech, consider the advantages of a baby monitor that can live-stream high-definition video from the crib—and, more remarkably, can keep track of sleep patterns, nursery room temperature, and anything else that might disrupt sleep. Parents can then learn from the accumulated data to help babies sleep longer and better.
Give new parents a small bookcase filled with a selection of your favorite books from childhood. Mom or dad can sit and read Goodnight Moon or The Very Hungry Caterpillar to help the baby fall asleep. As the child grows, more and more favorite books can be added to the collection. Make sure whatever case you choose is small and child-safe. If nursery space is at a premium, opt for floating shelves instead—and, if you’re handy with tools, offer to install them yourself to save the new parents a bit of labor. Bookcases and shelves also provide valuable extra storage room, which is something every parent will appreciate.
In today’s tech-crazed world, where everybody seems to have a smartphone within reach at all times, clocks are sometimes viewed as inessential. Don’t be fooled: Clocks are an often-overlooked nursery must-have and thus make an ideal gift for new parents. A new mom or dad hurrying to change a diaper while simultaneously dressing for work and going over the day’s agenda with the sitter or nanny doesn’t have the time—or the free hand—to check a smartphone to make sure everything is still running on schedule. Under these circumstances, the quiet ease of glancing at a traditional wall clock is a blessing. Choose a creative, artistic clock designed by an independent artisan from a wide variety of playful themes, including unicorns, happy bunnies, friendly forest critters, and much, much more.
Make a Wish Clock by Andrea Doss
A gift for new parents doesn’t have to be elaborate. The best gift will be an expression of your special relationship with the parents. It’ll show them that you share their joy in this new stage of their lives.
If the expectant parents have a baby registry, of course you should feel free to purchase a gift off of it. There’s a comfort that comes from knowing for certain your gift is something the recipient wants and will use. However, if choosing a gift off of a list feels too impersonal, go ahead and get creative. Draw upon your knowledge of the new parents to find a gift that will enhance their lives and help them make the most of this chaotic, exhausting, wonderful time.
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